Nelson fundraiser for war museum with French connection

A museum in France will be built with the help of Nelson College old boys, celebrating connections forged in World War I.
Nelson college old boy, former deputy prime minister and former secretary-general of the commonwealth Sir Don McKinnon is helping to raise funds for the long-running project in his role as the chair of the New Zealand War Memorial Museum Le Quesnoy Trust (NZWMLQ).

The ultimate goal of the project is to build a New Zealand war museum in the French town of Le Quesnoy, liberated by New Zealand soldiers late in WWI.

The purpose is to establish a New Zealand place, to enable New Zealanders wanting to come to a place that is distinctly New Zealand.


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We are the only ones that do not have a significant place of our own on the Western Front ... it's something that's missing in our history.

Nelson list MP Nick Smith with Sir Don McKinnon, a former old boy of Nelson College in Nelson fund-raising for a memorial museum in France.

He said while other allied countries had one or even two museums to visit, New Zealanders only had the 12,500 graves of soldiers to visit - sites that were obviously important, but which could not tell the story of New Zealand's war efforts.

He said it was now his sole role in life to see the project through, after a long stop-start-stop-start history going back to 1995.

The project was boosted by the support of Le Quesnoy mayor Marie-Sophie Lesne.

She was intent in making this happen, McKinnon said.

Le Quesnoy Ville Forte/SUPPLIED
Le Quesnoy mayor Marie-Sophie Lesne was behind the push to enable the foundation of a kiwi war memorial museum in the French town.

Lesne made a hectare of land within the city walls available, a complex including a manor house that was once used by the gendarmerie, which the NZWMMLQ Trust bought in 2017.

He said the project was welcomed by the township of Le Quesnoy, which had never forgotten what New Zealand soldiers had done for it in 1918.

The people of Le Quesnoy still recognise that it was New Zealand soldiers who liberated their town.

MP Dr Nick Smith said there was a strong connection between Nelson and the museum project, and in particular with Nelson College.

I was keen to make sure Nelson provided its fair share, he said.

New Zealand War Memorial Museum/Supplied
The trust is raising funds to turn this old gendarmerie base and former Mayor's mansion in Le Quesnoy, France, into a museum dedicated to New Zealands role in WWI and WWII.

400 of the 12,500 graves in Europe are for Nelsonians ... of those 400, 162 are former Nelson College students.

When I became aware of Sir Don McKinnons involvement in the project, I was keen to make sure Nelson provided its fair share.

He said he thought it was appropriate for a New Zealand memorial museum to mark a successful campaign.

The honest truth of the campaigns at Gallipoli and Paschendale is that they were military disasters, but the contribution at Le Quesnoy is something that New Zealand should be proud of.

Donations can be made towards the museum at the trusts website, www.nzwmm.org.nz.

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